Daniel Alfredsson’s long and winding road to the Hockey Hall of Fame will finally culminate when the longtime Ottawa Senators captain is officially inducted on Monday.
For the 49-year-old, the journey has been much more unlikely than that of the other three former NHL players in the Class of 2022: forwards Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, and goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Consider this: Daniel Sedin (chosen No. 2 by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1999 NHL Draft), Henrik Sedin (No. 3 for the Canucks in the 1999 draft) and Luongo (No. 4 for the New York Islanders in the 1997 NHL Draft). Draft) each was in the top five picks of their respective draft year, a far cry from Alfredsson’s situation.
Selected in the sixth round (133rd overall) by the Senators in the 1994 NHL Draft, he had to show the hockey world that he deserved to go higher. Given that he will become the seventh Swedish-born player to be listed in the Hall, joining Sedin, Borje Salming, Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg and Nicklas Lidstrom, he has done just that, if not more.
“It’s a huge honor,” Alfredsson said. “It’s definitely, I don’t know how you put it, validation, no doubt.”
Sundin, a member of the class of 2012, agrees.
“How many guys in the Hall have gone his way to get there, being such a low draft pick and all?” Sundin said. “It’s an amazing story.”
The one that saw Alfredsson become the second Swedish player in NHL history with 1,157 points (444 goals, 713 assists). Only Sundin (1,349 points; 564 goals, 785 assists) has done more.
“It’s still surreal to be honest,” Alfredsson said. “Especially looking at Swedish history where there are only four players before me and the Sedins now. It puts things into perspective because Sweden has produced a lot of good hockey players.
“Without a doubt, to be able to talk about them in the same breath as Lidstrom, Sundin, Salming and Forsberg is humbling. When I say it’s surreal, it’s hard to understand. It’s not like I did something recently where I thought, ‘Maybe I should do this.’ It has been years.
“There was talk about whether I should come in this year or next year? You don’t know until you finally get the call, and to be included in this group is amazing.”
Video: NHL stars discuss Alfredsson’s induction into HHOF
It was Alfredsson’s fifth year of eligibility since his name first appeared on the ballot in 2017, and his case has sparked much debate.
“Does everyone agree? Alfredsson spoke about his induction. “No, but that’s what’s great about the sport. It brings out the emotion on all sides.
“It’s definitely the dot on the ‘i’ to finish a career and be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.”
Alfredsson played in 1,246 NHL games with the Senators and Detroit Red Wings from 1995 to 2014. He finished fifth in NHL scoring during that 18-year window, behind Jaromir Jagr (1,366 points ; 548 goals, 818 assists), Teemu Selanne (1,223 points; 561 goals, 662 assists), Joe Thornton (1,194 points; 342 goals, 852 assists) and Jarome Iginla (1,167 points; 560 goals, 607 assists).
Although he never won the Stanley Cup, Alfredsson was part of an Ottawa team that made 11 consecutive playoff appearances from 1997 to 2008. His 426 goals, 682 assists and 1,108 points are all Senators records. The six-time NHL star won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 1996, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarian work in 2012; and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2013.
He and his wife were relaxing with friends in Sweden in July when he received the call from Hall informing him that he had been inducted. Having been run over four times before, he said his expectations were low and joked he thought the call was from his insurance company.
This time it wasn’t a joke. And for Forsberg, it was well deserved.
“I don’t think you can argue with the decision regarding the entry of any of the three Swedes,” said Forsberg, a member of the Class of 2014. “All three have had great careers. And don’t forget: Daniel was the captain of the Senators (1999-2014) and Henrik Sedin the same with the Canucks (2010-18).
“The combination of skills and leadership is admirable.”
When Alfredsson came to the NHL, he thought it would be a short chapter in his life.
There were no expectations of a long career, let alone a future Hall of Fame induction. He had been overlooked several times in the NHL Draft and was paying the price for many teams’ perception that he was too small and frail at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds; he would end up weighing as much as 203 pounds for most of his career.
When he arrived in Ottawa in 1995, the Senators were a chaotic team. They finished 9-34-5 the previous season and were outscored by 57 goals (174-117). This is not the ideal stage for optimism.
“The first year, I was trying to make sure the team didn’t know much about the NHL,” Alfredsson said. “To be sitting here 27 years later is surreal, because I thought two, three years, if things were going well.”
He quickly showed the hockey world that he would endure much longer than that, winning the Calder Trophy, voted NHL Rookie of the Year in 1995-96 with 61 points (26 goals, 35 assists). It was the first of 13 seasons where he would score at least 20 goals.
[RELATED: Alfredsson’s journey to Hockey Hall of Fame inspiring, Sundin says]
But post-season disappointments were in store.
Despite the presence of talented players like Alfredsson, Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara and Dany Heatley, the Senators lost four Stanley Cup Playoffs in five years to rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs in the highly publicized Battle of Ontario from 2000 to 2004. Ottawa managed to reach the final in 2007, but lost to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
Through it all, his teammates to this day preach the class with which Alfredsson conducted his business, the kind of leadership by example that trickled down to his teammates.
Defenseman Chris Phillips, who played with Ottawa from 1997 to 2015, said it’s no coincidence the Senators started to become a unified team when Alfredsson joined. He called him a “silent” leader and said that when the captain spoke, the whole team listened.
“Basically, in Ottawa, he’s the guy who really helped make this club respectable, and he’s done so much on and off the ice,” Jason Spezza said in 2020. Now special assistant to the Maple Leafs general manager , Spezza played with the Senators. from 2002-14.
A contract dispute with the Senators led Alfredsson to sign a one-year contract with the Red Wings on July 5, 2013, his final season in the NHL. On December 14, 2014, he signed a one-day contract with Ottawa, then announced that he was retiring from the NHL as a senator.
“The results may not have always been there,” he said, “but the work ethic always was.”
Senators fans and players past and present mostly agree on one thing: Daniel Alfredsson was and still is the face of the Ottawa franchise.
Never was that more evident than in the Senators’ home opener against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 18. -5 victory.
Senators attacking Claude Giroux was among those who thought that the love shown to Alfredsson was well deserved.
Giroux was just across the river from Ottawa with Gatineau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2005 to 2008, arguably the peak of Alfredsson’s NHL career. Once in the NHL, Giroux spent his offseasons in the Ottawa area and saw firsthand what Alfredsson meant to the franchise and the community.
“The way he fought and he’s a great leader,” Giroux said. “…I’ve been lucky enough to meet him several times over the past few years and I can only say why people here love him.”
Since becoming eligible for the Hall five years ago, Alfredsson has been keenly aware of and appreciates the “Elect Alfie” campaign taking place in Ottawa. He said he never lost sight of those efforts.
“It’s really special with the support I’ve had from Ottawa throughout my career until today,” he said. “I know they’ve been really supportive to help me get into the Hall of Fame. They’ve been behind me all the way and it’s going both ways.
“It really is a great honour.”
Along with receiving his Hall of Fame blazer and ring, of course, one of the highlights of the Hall of Fame weekend will be Alfredsson’s appearance at the Hall of Fame Legends Game at Scotiabank Arena on November 13. He will play there for the Sundin team, where he will reunite with Sundin and the Sedin, his teammates from the Swedish national team which won the gold medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
It will be the perfect culmination of an unlikely journey that many – apart from him – did not believe possible.
“I will be ready,” he said.
More often than not, it always has been.